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New Microparticle Procedure can Quickly Identify Bacteria in Hospitals

Researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences, or IPC PAS, in Warsaw, Poland, have developed a new method to quickly identify potential life-threatening bacteria within a matter of minutes.

The procedure utilizes luminescent magnetic microparticles, which are coated with selected bacteriophages to quickly identify potential bacterial species in patients.

Current methods to identify bacterial infections take several days while samples are taken to see if bacteria grow in a petri dish in a laboratory.

"Faster, better, cheaper - we managed to achieve all of these objectives," Dr. Jan Paczesny, who led the research project, said in a press release. "This can be seen by any interested party as, in full awareness, we relinquished patent protection."

Researchers used a flow cytometer, a simple and inexpensive device used in blood tests, to identify bacteria. A sample is passed through the cytometer via a narrow nozzle that forces larger particles, such as cells, to travel through one by one. The stream flowing through the cytometer is lit by lasers and uses detectors to record the light reflected from individual particles.

In order to easily label the bacteria to be intercepted and identified, researchers created special bioconjugates, or complexes formed by combining microparticles with biomolecules. The biological element to do this was bacteriophage, or a virus infecting a particular species of bacteria.

The bacteriophages were combined with microparticles that could emit light to easily be registered on the cytometer along with showing magnetic properties.

"We started by searching for inexpensive, commercially available microparticles that met our requirements," Marta Janczuk-Richter, Ph.D. student, said in a press release. "It turned out that appropriate particles were already available on the market - and exactly the ones we were looking for. Their surface was covered with just those chemical functional groups we needed to place virtually any type of bacteriaphage on them."

Researchers found that several bioconjugates attach to each bacteria allowing for the detection of a single bacterium. This procedure could easily be adapted by hospitals to test for a variety of bacteria.

The study was published in Bioconjugate Chemistry.

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